Do High Schools Even Care About Music Education?

Do High Schools Even Care About Music Education?

A Story by kataylor11

My Persuasive Essay I wrote for Comp. 2(the 2nd time) with LOTS of help from Jenn


Imagine you are in a high school music room. You look around and realize just how old everything is. You start thinking, "Does the school even care about this music room or even music in general? After all, the entire Athletic department just got new equipment when the old was still in perfect condition." In real life, this happens more often than you would think. I have seen this happen myself. Most high school music programs do not have large enough budgets to make sure their students earn every benefit that they can from music. The programs instead have to focus on making sure their students acquire the basics of learning and performing written music, when they could focus more on the complex and individual aspects. Most American high school boards focus on what their school has proven works in a high school education and overlook what can give their students a more extensive education. American high school boards would benefit from giving their music programs larger budgets. Some benefits include learning important life skills and scoring better on exams. If the high school boards could understand how the benefits of a comprehensive music program outweigh the cost of a larger budget, then the might slowly begin to expand their music programs. According to a study by Mark Fermanich, the cost of a comprehensive music education is on average $143 per high school student for the entire year (par. 5). The study was ".... focused on a school district, which served over 70,000 students during the 2009-2010 school year. The district includes urban, suburban and rural schools with a total district budget of $853 million. From that $13.9 million was allocated to music education representing 1.6% percent of total district expenditures" (par. 3). If a school district can provide a comprehensive K-12 music education program with only 1.6% of their total district expenditures, why are not more school district doing so. How can they use the amount of funding they are provided as an excuse, when a comprehensive K-12 music education program can be provided with such a little percentage?

One benefit of having a comprehensive music program is learning important life skills. Figure 1, shown to the right, includes a quote Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Most of the information Plato was talking about can be learned in a high school music class. By talking a high school music class, a student is given a place to let their imagination and mind soar, while still learning other important life skills. Music students could learn these life skills in other classes and extracurricular activities, but they probably would not be able to let their imagination and mind soar. While this is fine by the standards of high school boards, I do not believe it should be.

According to Valerie Strauss, in her article "What Do Children Learn From The Arts", some of the important life skills learned from music classes includes creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, focus, non-verbal communication, receiving constructive feedback, collaboration, dedication, and accountability. Strauss begins her article by illustrating how students learn to "think 'outside of the box'" and if they practice thinking in new or creative ways, they will slowly start thinking creatively naturally (par. 1). While students can learn how to think creatively in other classes, they will be given more chances to practice thinking creatively in a music class. If a student is in a comprehensive music class, they should be having to creatively think at least once every class period. This is something that would not happen in another class. Strauss then explains how music students build confidence by "... practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal" (par. 2). By the time the performance comes around, each student should be confident enough to perform before a relatively large audience. While the size of the audience depends on the school, if a student has practiced enough the size should not matter. At the very least, the music student should be able to perform their part without freaking out or freezing. Even if there are hundreds of strangers watching them. Next, Strauss states that the students who participate in music classes ".... are consistently being challenged to solve problems" without even noticing they are (par. 3). A music student learns to automatically solve each problem that arises in rehearsal so that it does not show up again at the performance. By solving problems every day, students now have the important problem-solving skills they will need to be successful throughout their entire lives. In the fourth paragraph of her article, Strauss asserts how music students learn perseverance by just continuing their music education and not giving up. As long as a music student continues to come to class and practice, they are learning perseverance. Something that is especially important to achieving success in today's competitive world. Strauss later explains how students learn to focus whenever there is a need of balance between listening and contributing. This happens by requiring each student to "... not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created: (par. 5). If a music student is not focusing on what they are doing and what is happening around them, then huge problems can erupt. Strauss asserts how receiving constructive feedback about a performance is a vital and expected part of any musical education. She explains how students must "... learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offered by or to be taken personally. It is something helpful" (par. 7). If a student does not learn from any feedback, let alone constructive feedback, then they will never improve. Strauss explains, in the eighth paragraph of her article, how music classes are collaborative in nature and give students an understanding that their contributions are important no matter the size of their role or part. Any music student should be able to collaborate, even if they are a soloist. Near the end of her article, Strauss explains how music classes teaches students dedication and how to "... associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment" (par. 9). They are rewarded with applause during the performance because they were dedicated to learning long pieces of music. Their efforts are made worthwhile, instead of worthless. In the last paragraph of her article, Strauss describes how students learn accountability in music classes. She states that "They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer" (par. 10). Music students learn to be responsible, by admitting when they have made a mistake, learn from their mistakes, and finally move on. If the students are not willing to admit that they made a mistake, then they can never learn from it and move on. This will lead to further problems down the road.

According to, in their "11 Facts About Music Education", some important life skills that music students can also learn includes a larger vocabulary, more advance reading skills, and faster memorization. They state, "Children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons" (par. 1). By learning music terms, which are usually in Latin and have to be translated, students are forced to expand their vocabulary. As students learn to read more complex music scores, their level of reading advances as well. By having a larger vocabulary and more advanced reading skills, music students are more prepared for their English, Science, History, and Math classes. later states that "... children who are involved in music lessons show greater brain development and memory improvement within a year than children who receive no musical training" (par. 10). Music students learn to memorize music scores or lyrics relatively fast in order to be ready for lesson and concerts. If they could not learn to memorize their parts fast enough, they could be embarrassed and even fail the class. By learning to memorize music scores or lyrics faster, music students are more prepared to memorize formulas and dates in their other classes. If high school students could learn so much from music classes, why are they not? I believe this is mainly due to the student's music programs not having the funding they need to provide the best learning experiences to their students.

Another benefit of having a comprehensive music program is scoring better on exams. Exam scores are important to the students, their parents and teachers, and the school board administration. Everyone wants better exam scores and if a comprehensive music program would help with exam score, then why do most schools not have one. In their "11 Facts About Music Education", states "Regardless of socioeconomic status or school district, students who participate in high-quality music programs score 22 percent better on English and 20 percent better on Math standardized exams" (par. 7). If there is evidence proving students that who participate in high-quality music programs are scoring better on standardized exams, then I do not understand why there are so many schools that do not have high-quality music programs. While I understand that not all students who take music classes score better on standardized exams, schools should be providing every resource they can to help their student score better even if it only helps a fraction of their student population.

There is also evidence proving that high-quality music programs can help their student score well on the SATs. In her article "Music's Contribution to Academic Success", Juliette Roser explains how students who took some music classes scored better on the SATs than those who did not.

Data collected from students taking the SAT, indicated that students taking music and arts averaged scores that were higher than non music students by 60 points on the verbal section and 43 points on the math section. Additionally, data revealed that for every year a student participated in music instruction, their SAT scores improved. Students with four or more years of music study received an average score of about 544 as opposed to a score just above 482 for those with half a at least one semester of music instruction, thus showing a strong correlation between music and academic success. (par. 8-9)

To help illustrate her point better, Roser included two graphs, Figures 2 and 3, from The College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report for 2001. The graphs illustrate the how students were scoring better on the SATs in a way that is easier to picture than just reading about the information in an article.

While there has been many surveys and studies that prove a comprehensive music programs’ benefits far outweigh the cost, American high school boards still provide their music programs with small budgets. This needs to stop. The school boards need to learn the facts and not just use what they know works. If only they knew how relatively inexpensive it was to provide a comprehensive music program, then maybe they would expand their music program’s budget.

Works Cited

"11 Facts About Music Education.", 2013.Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Figure 1. All About Plato. All About Plato, 2013. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.

Figure 2. The College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report for 2001. The College Board, 2013. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. 

Figure 3. The College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report for 2001. The College Board, 2013. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.

Strauss, Valerie. "What Do Children Learn From The Arts?" Keeping The Blues Alive. Keeping The Blues Alive, 21 Aug. 2013. The Washington Post. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

"Study First to Detail the Costs of Comprehensive Music Education." NAMM. NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants, 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2013.

Resor, Juliette. "Music's Contribution to Academic Success." Encyclopedia of Educational Technology. San Diego State University, 2004. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

© 2013 kataylor11

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Added on December 4, 2013
Last Updated on December 4, 2013